Origins of the Toothbrush

The toothbrush, as we think of it today, was not developed until the year 1938, but its history goes back much further. The concept of oral hygiene dates to roughly 5000 BCE. The ancient Egyptians made a paste of eggs shells and used their fingers to scrub the tartar off of their teeth. Fifteen hundred years later the ancient empires of Babylon and Egypt first used frayed twigs to scrub their teeth clean.

The importance of keeping a clean mouth was well known to the Egyptians. We can tell this due to the number of these “tooth sticks” which have been found in burial chambers of Pharaohs and commoners alike.

Just around the geographical corner from Egypt, in China, the idea of chewing sticks developed around 1600 BCE. In China, they used aromatic trees, such as Cinnamomum cassia, Catalpa, pine, and aloe, to freshen their breath. As far as archaeologists can tell, the Chinese culture was the first to sharpen a chewing stick on one end to get between teeth.

Using a stick, in one form or another, was the primary oral hygiene method in Africa and they remain popular there. The Greeks and the Romans used toothpicks to clean their teeth instead of chewing sticks, but the concept was the same. More information on modern dental services: http://www.northmiamibeachdentist.com/dental-services/

The first known brush with bristles comes from the Tang Dynasty in China, circa 619-907 CE. The bristles were made of the bristly hairs of hogs. In China, the bristles were transported from Siberia and Northern China because the cold temperatures made the bristles firmer.

Those who could afford it would have the hog bristles attached to a fine ox or whalebone. The poorer population, if they could afford a toothbrush, would have a handle made from bamboo, bone, wood or other easily accessible items. To this day, some Chinese monks use a toothbrush made out of oxen bone and horsehair.

The popularity of this new design spread, via the trade routes, into various parts of Europe. In Europe, the model was adapted to use horse hair instead of hog hair. The design evolved and some styles had greater popularity than others. From artifacts, we can tell that toothbrushes have been made from feathers, various animal hairs, and porcupine quills.

A more modern design was given to the toothbrush by a British man named William Addis in 1780. This company has changed hands, and names, several times, but it remains one of the largest toothbrush distributors in the United Kingdom. The bristles were still made of hog-hair, but the handle was carved from a sturdier cattle bone. The first design which featured rows was created 64 years later.

The invention of nylon in the early 1900’s brought toothbrushes to a whole new level. The first modern form of the toothbrush was developed in 1938. By the 1950’s manufacturers had discovered how to make bristles of varied softness and styles.

It was during the 1960’s that the first electric toothbrush hit the stores. Since then, toothbrushes have primarily been made of nylon and plastic. Designs, styles, and colors have changed, but this basic idea has been an industry standard for nearly 60 years. Thankfully we now know how to package them so they are sterile and manufacture them so they remove the most tartar. For more information on keeping your mouth healthy, visit: http://www.northmiamibeachdentist.com/faqs/

Before treating gum, tooth, or other oral problems consult with Dr. J.J.Edderai. A dental check-up every three months will allow Dr. Edderai and any of his Hygienists to keep a watchful eye on your oral health and prevent cavities before they start. For answers to some of the most commonly asked questions, visit my FAQ page at http://www.northmiamibeachdentist.com/faqs/.

Copyright Dr. Jean-Jacques Edderai -2015

Please follow and like us: